All NHS labs in Scotland will be linked through the National Pathology Exchange network following the approval of NHS Scotland Shared Services.

The executive board of NHS Scotland green-lit a business case that will see all 14 of the country’s health boards connected to the exchange hub, enabling hospital lab teams to communicate electronically.

The National Pathology Exchange (NPEx) provides lab-to-lab messaging from any laboratory information management system (LIMS) to other labs in the UK enables  test requests and pathology results to be sent digitally

Developed by Leeds-based X-Lab and delivered by the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust Health Informatics Service (THIS), the system eliminates the need for paper-based requests and manual data entry into LIMS, lowering the risk of human error and speeding up the rate at which diagnoses can be delivered to patients.

Chris Dunne, assistant director of informatics at THIS, said: “For patients and clinicians, results will be available immediately and risks of transcription error will be eliminated. For staff, both technical and clinical, the time-consuming paperwork of manually recording and processing hundreds of thousands of pathology results will be completely automated by modern digital systems.”

According to X-Lab, NPEx is used by approximately 70% of NHS trusts in England.

The system also allows the location and progress of tests to be tracked and enables pathology managers see what tests each lab offers, including how much they charge and their turnaround times.

Steve Box, business development director at X-Lab, told Digital Health News: “NPEx is one of the most modern digital systems in the NHS and will play a significant role in moving to a paperless NHS.

“Rationalisation across the 29 pathology networks will see the volume of lab-to-lab communications growing significantly and the central, national role of NPEx will serve as a key enabler for the strategic transformation that is planned.”

In March, four Scottish health boards announced a project to link up patient data across primary, secondary and social care systems.